Marshall Plan Will Save Zimbabwe

Published on 4th September 2007

Shrapnels emitted from the explosion caused by the raging debate on whether or not aid is fatal for African economies justify serious analysis. I can only comment from a Zimbabwe perspective, since it is a case study I am familiar with. Its current state of economic paralysis is a condition that has not only drawn global attention, but also worldwide condemnation especially from the protagonists of libertarian ideology.


I refer to Zimbabwe as a ‘condition’ because in medical practice, when a human being assumes a state of anatomical paralysis, ‘first aid’ no longer plays any meaningful role in resuscitation. What one requires is ‘life aid’ because the patient is not in a position of self-support. First aid is only relevant at the transitory point of accident as a temporary measure prior to substantive treatment. Zimbabwe was at that transitory state in1999.


In interrogating whether aid is a curse or blessing to Africans, I take full cognisance of the viewpoint that billions of dollars of aid money pumped into Africa in the past have yielded very little other than incapacitate the grateful recipient. However, it is also true that billions of dollars pumped into private sector projects have not always resulted in blue-chip status. Some companies, like Enron, are languishing in the corporate graveyard. Therefore, it is not how much money is pumped into a system, but how the resource is utilised. The last time that the Harare City Council was on record for helping its citizens access accommodation was when it was the Salisbury Municipality. After 1980, the Zimbabwe government relied heavily on the USAid-funded projects to produce public housing units, except in Bulawayo where the Ndebele-run municipality implemented a sane housing program. Therefore, even at a time when our GDP and per capita were breaking records, there was positive coexistence between development and investment aid.


I am also tempted to concur with some practitioners who differentiate investment from development aid, the former, comes with specific conditions to finance high-yielding public and private sector projects. Perhaps anti-aid advocates expend energy of the latter because it is associated with bilateral ‘Chinese-type’ handouts meant to extract and extort patronage at UN Security Council level.  Investment aid is a business arrangement between a country and financial institutions of other countries, to build-operate-transfer packages.


Our debate on ‘TrAid’ at the recent IREN think tank puts the spotlight on dovetailing access of African goods and services to western markets. TrAid de-couples Africa from the sympathy category, putting the continent on the pedestal of equal partnership. I shudder to think that it takes a degree of philanthropy on the part of EU to open up its market for Zimbabwean beef without which we would be obliterated by competition from Argentine gauchos. I doubt, even with a high prescription of concessions, whether Zimbabwean cotton products can stand the heat from Asian competitors. Our schizophrenic labour and taxation laws have perched our production costs at unassailable heights.


Development or humanitarian aid brings me to another point. Peter Bauer is quoted as having described aid as “taking money from the poor in rich countries and giving it to the rich in poor countries”. IREN rubs its hands with gleeful ‘victory!’ on news that an international humanitarian agency has ‘rejected’ aid for Africa. Then I refer to a Voice of America story on the expulsion of Paul Barker, the top official in Sudan for the international aid agency CARE. Dr. Helene Gayle, CARE President and CEO explains the impact of this senseless act on the part of the racist slave-driving Sudan government: “…First and foremost we have about 600 staff in Sudan. We have provided considerable resources. Over $184 million since we’ve been operating there, $60 million to the Darfur region just in the last three years. So, we feel like we do make a difference in the lives of people there, who are really struggling and suffering in many situations.” CARE's Nairobi-based spokeswoman, Bea Spadacini adds: “…CARE will not stop working in Sudan.  CARE employs 550 people in Sudan.”


I deliberately place the spotlight on this type of support – humanitarian aid – that is necessitated by oppression on Africans by their own leaders. The reason why Israel is one of the most dominant forces in the Middle East is not that they export irrigation technology, but ever since their attempted extermination by Adolph Hitler, the world has taken a special interest in supporting Jewish resurgence through a combination of investment, development, humanitarian and unfortunately, military aid. Ironically, Jews, like Zimbabweans, were known to be highly educated and enlightened, but their ‘knowledge base’ failed to insulate them from Hitler’s thirst for blood. Education is a fallacy, as the Zimbabwean case will prove.


The Botswana public and private sector was ‘made’ by Zimbabweans. Currently, Zimbabweans are riding high on South Africa’s corporate ladders, and yet when it comes to dealing with the political excesses of our Robert Mugabe, academic and intellectual excellence counts for nothing.  My point is that aid has nothing to do with internal capacity; it fills a deficiency that results from an act of omission or commission on the part of African governments. What has killed Zimbabwe is not aid but bad governance.


It is romantic for Trevour Manuel, RSA Finance Minister to croon: “We cannot decide what kind of economy Zimbabweans must have. They must get prices to work, they must drive the changes. We cannot commit financial resources.” But if my memory serves me right, Jeremy Brickhill, a Zimbabwean ‘liberal white’ freedom fighter lost his limbs for his principled stand against South African AparthAid. Western countries, through their trAid with the Boer regime, kept Botha's economy ticking through exiting defence contracts and De Beer’s global diamond monopoly. Robert Mugabe assumed ‘hero status’ because of Boer bashing, so Mr Trevour Manuel should revise his history. Of course had Mugabe fully embraced the virtues of the free market economy, I would only be screaming for trAid. But the extent of collapse in infrastructure and the meteoric budget deficit demands nothing short of an economic and political Marshall Plan for Zimbabwe. Once we get out of the recovery ward, we Zimbabweans will be back to the top where we belong, but not without a jumpstart.

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